anatolian shepherd

How to Train an Anatolian Shepherd Dog

An Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a rugged, imposing flock guardian of ancient lineage. Protective and territorial, but also intelligent, patient, and profoundly loyal, these muscular avengers are prized as working guard dogs without equal. The Anatolian Shepherd Dog stands between 27 and 29 inches at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 150 pounds. Profusely muscled but nimble afoot, Anatolians are more than a match for the predators and harsh terrain of their homeland. Anatolians descend from some of the oldest known domestic-canine bloodlines. This lends the breed a sense of timelessness, a no-frills, untouched quality that takes us back 6,000 years to the Bronze Age. Anatolians are smart, devoted, responsive, and adaptable. They will protect their flock’¿livestock, children, smaller dogs, even the family cat’¿with intensity. Anatolian owners must be strong leaders, willing and able to handle a dog as dominating and demanding as he is calm and loving.


Anatolia, or Asia Minor, is the peninsula that constitutes the Asian portion of Turkey. It was at this crossroads of early civilization that sheep and goat herders developed a livestock guardian known as the Coban Kopegi (“shepherd’s dog”), forerunner of today’s Anatolian Shepherd.

The central region of Anatolia is a high plateau of endless plains and rolling hills. Summers are dry and brutally hot, and the winters are snowy, with sub-zero temperatures. In this harsh, unforgiving crucible the Anatolian Shepherd forged his longstanding reputation as the flock guardian supreme.

Ancient artifacts going back to the days of the Babylonian Empire document the breed’s ancestors. Assyrian bas-relief carvings housed in the British Museum, dating to 2000 b.c., depict large dogs of recognizable Anatolian Shepherd type. The earliest books of the Bible refer to shepherds whose dogs were most likely some local variation of the Anatolian.

The breed’s history in America begins in the years immediately preceding World War II, when the Department of Agriculture imported a breeding pair from Turkey to participate in the top-secret “Sheepdog Project.” The program’s objective was to determine which breeds would be best suited for work on American sheep pastures. With the outbreak of war, the project was disbanded and the Anatolians and their offspring were dispersed.

American ranchers began importing Anatolians in the postwar 1950s, but the breed really took hold in this country in the 1970s. The credit for firmly establishing the breed in America goes to Lieutenant Robert Ballard, U.S. Navy, who acquired a pair of Anatolians while stationed in Turkey. He brought them home to America and bred his first littler in 1970, providing foundation stock for U.S. breeders.

This new breeding activity coincided with the passage of the Endangered Species Act. The new law required that ranchers control the population of predatory wolves without killing them. Anatolian Shepherds, who would rather intimidate predators than fight them, were perfectly suited for the job. Many Anatolian Shepherds are still working ranch dogs today, protecting everything from sheep and goats to ostriches and llamas.

Quick Facts

Temperament: reserved / independent / loyal

Height: 27 to 29 inches 

Weight: 80 to 150 pounds

Life Expectancy: 11-13 years

Working Group


The Anatolian is overall a healthy and hardy breed. Hip dysplasia is not common in Anatolians, nor is bloat, a life-threatening twisting and inversion of the stomach. Owners should know the symptoms of bloat, however, so as to act quickly should it occur. The breed can be sensitive to anesthesia, and owners should ensure that their vet is aware of this before any procedures. Good breeders will screen for entropion, in which the eyelids invert, which can be surgically corrected. An Anatolian’s ears should be checked regularly for any signs of infection, and the dog’s teeth should be brushed frequently.


Bred to work outdoors, the Anatolian has a thick undercoat that protects him from the elements. Some Anatolians have a long outer coat, but on most it is quite short, and a quick brushing once a week will keep it looking good. Keep in mind, though, that the Anatolian sheds his undercoat twice a year. During shedding season, he will need to given a thorough brushing-out to remove the dead hair, with a short-bristle brush and possibly a comb as well, every few days. As with all breeds, the Anatolian’s nails should be trimmed regularly.


Because he only needs a moderate amount of exercise, an Anatolian will be happy with time in a yard’¿be sure it has a tall, strong fence and a locked gate’¿and a long walk once or twice a day. Remember, though, that an Anatolian must be kept on leash whenever he is taken out of the home. As one breeder says, “Don’t assume that your dogs will be reliable off leash. False security on your part can become a disaster.


Because the breed tends to be wary toward others and instinctively protective, an Anatolian puppy must be socialized. Obedience training is a must with the breed. The Anatolian was bred to work independently, make decisions on his own, and protect his flock from outsiders, and training the breed to respond to commands can be a challenge. Under no circumstances should an Anatolian receive protection or guard-dog training.


The Anatolian Shepherd Dog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). The Anatolian does not tend to overeat. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.